By Gilles Guillaume and Dominique Vidalon

PARIS (Reuters) -A solid performance by Renault’s higher-value brands helped soften an overall drop in annual worldwide group sales at the French carmaker, as its focus on more profitable models pays off.

Renault’s worldwide group sales fell for the third year in a row in 2021, due notably to problems with the supply of chips used in vehicles.

Renault, whose Chief Executive Luca de Meo has moved from a strategy of chasing volume to creating value, said sales of passenger cars and light vehicles fell 4.5% to 2,696,401 units.

Sales of the Renault brand were down 5.3% although sales of the low-cost Dacia brand increased by 3.1%, Lada’s sales progressed by 0.3% while sales of the Alpine sport model jumped 74%.ts last year. Renault’s shares rose around 2%.

“The sales policy initiated in the third quarter of 2020, is leading to an increase in the share of sales in the most profitable channels,” Renault said in a statement.

Renault brand commercial boss Fabrice Cambolive said he expected the Renault brand to increase in terms of net revenue per model in 2022.

Renault said that in its five main European countries – France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom – the share of sales to retail customers now represented 58%, up 6 points compared to 2019, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Gilles GuillaumeEditing by Sudip Kar-Gupta amd Emelia Sithole-Matarise)